Homelessness in Anacortes

Homelessness in Anacortes is increasing and becoming more evident to regular citizens, who may now see some of our homeless residents occupying benches at the library or sleeping tucked away in quiet spaces along Commercial Avenue. 

Homelessness is a problem driven by many factors, primarily housing scarcity and pricing, addiction and mental health issues and domestic problems.  Each of these issues have different solutions or treatments, but there are actions we are taking and further actions which can begin to help.

The Anacortes Family Center does brilliant and effective work for homeless women, children and families at providing temporary shelter and a program to get them on their feet again.  There is, however, no such shelter in Anacortes for single males.  This is a highly effective solution for people who have the desire and capacity to reestablish themselves and we should all be invested in its success.

We also need to provide support for those who are struggling with mental health and addiction issues.  There are clinical and other resources here in Anacortes and at the County level which can provide help and support for our homeless, thought there remain issues for them of transportation, scheduling and funding; without the stability and resources of a home and family, people struggling with addiction and mental health issues are challenged to pay, communicate, follow-up and effectively engage in a program to recover or reach stability.

Additionally, the City needs to provide public hygiene facilities accessible to our homeless as well as designated areas where they may feel safe to rest and sleep.  In the absence of government-provided facilities, our homeless residents will care for their needs anywhere they can, in public or private business locations.  This is a problem Seattle is facing which is having a major impact on the city.  We can avoid it by providing for their minimal needs of washrooms and designated safe sleeping areas.

 We’re not going to solve this quickly or easily, but there are things we can do to make it better:

·         Support and expand the family shelter to increase capacity and capability.

·         Develop a separate dedicated shelter for solo men which can provide the same level of shelter and a program to help them back on the path to housing security.

·         The City can provide a partially-assigned social worker to monitor our homeless, evaluate their safety and security, connect them to the support and resource they may need, and advise the City on best support options.

·         The City must provide washroom facilities and safe designated sleeping areas so our homeless have an alternative to using public or private business or residential properties for their needs.

·         The City may coordinate with the Chamber of Commerce and other private organizations to create a work-referral program where our homeless may find opportunities to find a good job with local business.

There are currently many people and organizations focused on helping alleviate our homelessness problem in Anacortes.  I would like us, with the City’s support, to continue pushing hard for direct actions to make meaningful progress in the short-term.

Dom Tor Fleming